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Window on Eurasia — New Series: New Research Highlights Past Tatar Dominance of Orenburg Corridor

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Paul Goble

            Staunton, Oct. 2 – The Orenburg or Kudymkar Corridor, the land between the republics of Bashkortostan and Tatarstan now within the Russian Federation, on the one hand, and Kazakhstan, on the other, has long been a sensitive issue for Moscow and for nationalist groups in the two Idel-Ural republics.

            When Stalin drew the borders of these two Russian republics and Kazakhstan, he made sure that there was an ethnic Russian corridor between them because according to his constitution, non-Russian areas could become union republics only if they had an external border and thus have the right to secede from the USSR.

            But because the area of this corridor was earlier dominated by Muslim Turkic groups and became predominantly Russian, Bashkirs and Tatars never forgot it and hoped they could recover such a land bridge to the outside world and thus lay the groundwork for their own eventual independence.

            Over the last several years, their interest in the corridor has grown with Ukrainian officials taking up the cudgels on their behalf given that if that corridor were bridged, Russia would be significantly weakened (jamestown.org/program/the-orenburg-corridor-and-the-future-of-the-middle-volga/, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2018/11/orenburg-corridor-threatens-russia-more.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2018/03/moscow-analyst-denounces-kazakh.html, and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2022/01/ukrainian-interest-in-orenburg-corridor.html).

            Because current borders mean that Bashkirs have a more immediate interest, there has been more talk about this corridor in Ufa than in Kazan. But that may be about to change. A group of Tatar scholars has gone to the region to examine grave markers there and concluded that the corridor remains part of “the Tatar world” (business-gazeta.ru/article/565535).

            Given the new fluidity in thinking in both Idel-Ural and Kazakhstan, the possibility of closing the Orenburg corridor and the opening of the possibility of independence for the republics of the Middle Volga is likely to be fueled by what might otherwise appear to be a narrowly academic study.  

Window on Eurasia — New Series

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